Yesterday, I wrote about the tricky transition ahead for Ron Francis and the team as he tries to transition to the next wave of youth on defense without rushing things.
Below is a more random set of quick hitters player by player:
I still would like to see him get a look on his natural left side next to Matt Tennyson. Of the myriad of combinations we have seen for the third pairing, I am pretty sure Peters has not tried that yet.
I have a half-written longer post about this somewhere and alluded to it in a poll about Noah Hanifin in Bill Peters’ system, but what actually concerns me most about Ryan Murphy is not the fact that he struggles defensively (that is not new news) but rather the fact that the puck-carrying part of his game (which was a natural strength even 3 years ago) has completely disappeared. Is it possible that Peters’ structured style of play that moves the puck forward just does not suit skating, freelancing defensemen? If so, what does that mean for Noah Hanifin who has this as arguably his most natural skill set and part of his path to being elite? As recently as the start of the season, I was optimistic that he could at least be a skating new NHL third pairing defenseman, but I have officially reached the point where I think both Murphy and the team would be better off if he was traded to get a fresh start elsewhere ideally in return for a comparable ‘restart’ kind of player.
Following the Murphy comments, I am at the point where more than anything else I want to see him channel his inner Joni Pitkanen and attempt to use his skating ability to attack in transition offensively. Important to note is that I am also willing to live with some mistakes if they happen (because they will). I am becoming increasingly concerned that Hanifin is gradually making his way onto a path to growing gradually into a decent but not great vanilla #4 defenseman instead of aiming for Erik Karlsson.
I am still waiting for Justin Faulk to play at the level that he has proven he can (back in the Andrej Sekera time frame). As I watch and think about his struggles, I he is a step or 2 short on quickness to close and acceleration. It shows in all facets of his game. Trying to move the puck from his own end, some of his turnovers are because he does not get moving quickly enough and results in him making long passes from deep in his own end. Defending in his own end, he just does not have the same closing ability as Slavin and Pesce in terms of closing on shooters, winning short sprints to loose pucks or recovering to defend an open opponent. I wonder if some combination of a short summer and maybe even lingering effects from his injury last winter are a factor. Sticking with my post from December 13, I continue to think that a second half surge from Justin Faulk is a critical component to any Hurricanes’ playoff push.
I like him as a leader and for the right contract and willingness to take a lesser role, I could see re-signing him for 2017-18 (sort of like the old Glen Wesley year to year role for a reasonable price), but I think his days as a top 4 defenseman are quickly coming to an end.
After a tough start that saw him cut from the NHL roster and headed to Charlotte ahead of schedule, he has really done about what could have been reasonably hoped from his as a mostly solid #6/#7 depth defenseman.
I was high on him after last fall’s training camp before he even stepped into the NHL. And like everyone else, I was thrilled with his 2015-16 season. But he has exceeded my expectations for 2016-17 in terms of taking another step up. Right now, he has as much of a case as anyone for being the Hurricanes’ best defenseman this season.
He would be another candidate for the blue line MVP thus far. I continue to watch him anxiously to see if with growing comfort in his top pairing role he can find a higher gear offensively. He has the quickness, acceleration and shifty skating ability to do much more in terms of rushing the puck when the opening presents itself. The key is the decision-making part of it. Can he learn to quickly assess situations both before and after retrieving pucks in his own end to figure out when and where he can get 2 quick strides moving north-south? And after that does he have or can he develop the ability to see/read the situation in front of him and use his skating ability to create skating lanes for himself and passing lanes to team mates at top speed?